More on “Fastball” and Indians TV

This time, it’s Akron Beacon Journal TV writer R.D. Heldenfels weighing in on the issue of the Cleveland Indians’ new in-house TV network, in an article to be published in Thursday’s Beacon.

Rich sits down for a talk with Jim Liberatore, the veteran sports TV executive (“SpeedChannel”) tasked with running the new venture…which will air its very first pre-season game less than a month from now.

There’s not much new on the “where” part of the network’s operation. Heldenfels notes the Time Warner deal, and the upcoming absorption of Adelphia by TWC…but like other items, gives no indication that “Fastball Sports Productions” intends on talking to Adelphia before that merger is completed.

As we’ve pointed out only a few dozen times here, there’s no guarantee that Adelphia customers will become Time Warner customers before a number of Indians games have gone by. We’re giving up at this point, frankly, and will rely on the dulcet tones of Tom Hamilton, Matt Underwood and Mike Hegan on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network…dependably available on WTAM/1100 Cleveland, WAKR/1590 Akron, WHBC/1480 Canton and WQKT/104.5 Wooster.

The games show up when they show up, and if Adelphia isn’t all that interested, and the Indians are just going to wait out the merger whenever it happens, heck with them. We’re not the ones not being proactive about airing the network on the system serving the bulk of Cleveland’s cable households before the complex merger is completed. (Can you tell we’re upset about this? Can you tell we have YET to get an answer about this from the Indians or Adelphia?) And of course, there are the 20 games to be seen over-air on broadcast partner WKYC/3.

Anyway, moving on from our own obsession, Liberatore tells the Beacon that the satellite TV penetration in the Cleveland market is a “huge presence”. He says Fastball is talking to the Dish Network and DirecTV folks, but in a curious aside, says he believes the “fans will push the services” to carry Indians games. Could this be more “in the media negotiating”, much like they hope fans will put pressure on suburban Cleveland cable provider Cox Cable?

But Heldenfels’ article does provide some insight on what may eventually air on the new Indians channel. Liberatore points out that unlike previous rightsholder FOX Sports Net Ohio, the new network will have a studio at their disposal…in specific, the studio of WKYC, which is not only the team’s broadcast partner, but also its production partner. He says the new network will go more in depth with detail about not only the Tribe, but its competition.

And he sees a multi-sport vision for the network. No, there’s no mention about poaching the Cavaliers from FSN Ohio when that contract is up, but in addition to various sports-related programming heavy on Northeast Ohio content, such things as minor league baseball’s Akron Aeros, and high school and college sports could be in the Indians-owned network’s future sights.

For right now, though…they have to get their own games on the air, and get them to viewers.

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